This week, many schools in my district are hosting their first round of parent/teacher conferences. Traditionally, these evenings have been organized as an opportunity for parents and teachers to come together and discuss student progress in a formalized setting. More often that not, parents arrive with their child’s most recent report card in hand expecting some sort of explanation from the teacher.
With the lives of parents busier than ever, these evenings are quite possibly the first opportunity home and school has been able to connect, and the potential exists for some disagreement to occur, especially if a child has been irresponsible or has been exhibiting poor behaviour.
During my years as a school principal I’ve witnessed on more than one occasion a stressed out teacher because of a series of unsuccessful conferences. The problem usually stemmed from the teacher holding their ground in a difficult conversation and the meeting may have ended with neither the parent or teacher feeling supported by each other.
Set them up for success with 3 simple questions.
A few years ago I heard of an excellent idea to put teachers in the right mindset and set them up for success going into PT conferences.
- At the staff meeting leading up to the conferences inform your teachers that you will be giving parents a short exit survey as they leave the school after their conference.
- Go over the questions and discuss them during the staff meeting.
- Make sure everyone knows that the survey questions will be anonymous and teachers names, grades, etc. will not be collected; just the answers to the 3 questions.
- Give everyone a copy of the 3 questions to take with them.
- Leave a copy on the staffroom tables and in the staff workroom on the days leading up to the conferences.
Your teachers will not want to contribute to negative results on this survey so they will make a conscious effort to conduct interviews in such a way that parents will provide positive answers.
Here are the questions:
Did you feel welcomed?
Were you made to feel a part of your child’s learning team?
Do you have hope for your child’s year ahead?
At the staff meeting following the parent/teacher conferences share the results with your teachers and have small group discussion about why the results were 100% positive. I did this three times and they were 100% positive each and every time. It sets them up for success.